Flashback – Beltane 2003

“In ancient times, people extinguished all their fires on BEltane and then lit a single new fire. They relit all the extinguished fries from this “need fire.”

To create your own need fire ritual, you’ll need to gather the nine sacred woods: birch, rowan, ash, adler, willow, hawthron, oak, holly, and hazel. If you are unable to find all the different types, try to make sure you have at least three: oak, ash and hawthron.

If you don’t have any open fires to put out, use candles to symbolize your fires. Take either three or nine tapers and set them in a row. Light the candles and all them to burn for a little while, then put them out, thinking of those things you wish to put out of your life. Now prepare the need fire of nine woods in a fireplace, an outdoor fire ring or even in a grill on a balcony or patio. Make a wood bow (as described in the Boy Scout Handbook, for example) or get a magnifying glass to set fire to the tinder. THe fire should be allowed to spread to the oak wood first, then to the others. While you light the fire, and as you watch it burn, think of those things you wish to “catch fire” in your life.

Copyright 2003 Magenta Griffith Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2003 Page 67

Beltane – Day 19

Beltane Magic [Part 8]

8.  The Magic of Butterflies

The butterfly is one of nature’s most perfect examples of change, transformation, and growth. Because of this, it has long been the subject of magical folklore and legend in a variety of societies and cultures. Let’s look at some of the magical meanings behind butterflies. [Click on “The Magic of Butterflies” in blue on this post]

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2002

“Prepare for Beltane by leaving tokens for the fairy folk in the woods or in your herb garden. Tie glitzy ribbons for the undines near a natural spring or river. Gather spring flowers at dawn to adorn your door, and prepare a traditional May bowl for your ritual.

First, harvest several stems of flowering sweet woodruff to steep in white wine or champagne, Then stir in a cup of brandy or strawberry wine, adding whole stawberries, rose petals, and floating red candles. EMpowerthe whole bowl for your ritual. Make a mini-Maypole for your altar. FInd small smooth egg-shaped stones and half bury in pots of herbs or directly in the soil to update the ancient tradition of Hermes seeding the soil for fertility. For this ritual, use red as the main color theme in circle as a nod to the red moonflow of ancient ceremonies.”

Copyright202 K. D. Spitzer Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2002

Beltane – Day 17

Beltane Magic [Part 6]

6.  Dandelion Magic

Although many suburban homeowners see dandelions as the bane of their existence, and spend significant amounts of money trying to eradicate them from sight, the fact is that dandelions have a long and rich folkloric history, both from a magical and medicinal perspective. Let’s look at some of the ways people have utilized dandelions throughout the ages.More »

By Patti Wigington

Flashback – Beltane 2001

“Beltane honors the sacred marriage of the God and Goddess, whos union will produce the harvets to come. It also celebrates the start of summer in full bloom. For this ritual, gather or purchase wildflowers. With raffia, twine, or string, tie flowers together in long garlands; ten feet in length or longer is perfect. These don’t have to look professionally crafted. They only need to hold together for the purpose of your ritual. When you have completed the garlands, go out to a park or wooded area. Touch the land and its plants and trees with your hands, allowing yourself to connectwith the pulsing lifeforce of the area. Look around for items that are either feminine or masculine in their energy and begin linking them together with the flowery garlands to honor the union of the divine male and female energies. For example, you can link stones to oak trees, riverbanks to abandoned fire pits, or flowering plants to spikey ones.”

Copyright 2001 Edian McCoy LLewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 2001e

Beltane – Flashback 2000

“When the Sun travels through Taurus, Spring has reached its fertile peak. Trees are lush and green, flowers bloom, and birds wrestle meals for their youngsters from the moist ground. The air smells fresh, clean and “green.” This is the time of year for all of us to take a moment to appreciate the gifts of the Earth-Mother, both for this richness of her bounty and the home she provides. As the most pleasure-loving sign of all, Taurus is expert at enjoying all those wonderful experiences that make life inside the human body so delightful. This sign loves to indulge in good food, listen to sweet strains of music, and sit in awed silence as yet anothe sunset slowly fills the sky with color. The ancients danced their fertility rites on this day, taking pleasure in the sensual, fruitful touch of each other’s bodies, another delight the union of the Goddess and God provides. Whether you dance around a Maypole or  simply partake of a divine feast with friends at this magical time, be sure to revel in your body, the divine instrument that allows you to sample the wonders of our planet.”

Copyright 2000 Kim Rogers-Gallagher Llewellyn’s Witches’ Datebook 200 Page 69

All About Beltane

April’s showers have given way to rich and fertile earth, and as the land greens, there are few celebrations as representative of fertility as Beltane. Observed on May 1st (or October 31 – November 1 for our Southern Hemisphere readers), festivities typically begin the evening before, on the last night of April. It’s a time to welcome the abundance of the fertile earth, and a day that has a long (and sometimes scandalous) history. Depending on your tradition, there are a number of ways you can celebrate this Sabbat. First, you might want to read up on:

Rituals and Ceremonies

Depending on your particular tradition, there are many different ways you can celebrate Beltane, but the focus is nearly always on fertility. It’s the time when the earth mother opens up to the fertility god, and their union brings about healthy livestock, strong crops, and new life all around.

Here are a few rituals you may want to think about trying — and remember, any of them can be adapted for either a solitary practitioner or a small group, with just a little planning ahead.

Customs and Folklore

Interested in learning about some of the traditions behind the celebrations of May Day? Learn why the Romans had a big party, and who the popular fertility gods are.

Beltane Magic

Beltane is a season of fertility and fire, and we often find this reflected in the magic of the season. Let’s look at some of that spring magic, from ritual sex to fertility magic, along with the magic found in gardens and nature.

Crafts and Creations

As Beltane approaches, you can decorate your home (and keep your kids entertained) with a number of easy craft projects. Start celebrating a bit early with fun floral crowns and a Maypole altar centerpiece.

Feasting and Food

No Pagan celebration is really complete without a meal to go along with it. For Beltane, celebrate with foods that honor fertility of the earth. Enjoy light spring soups, Scottish bannocks, fertility bread loaves, and more.

Related Articles

From and owned  by About.com: http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/beltanemayday/a/AllAboutBeltane.htm

A Detailed History of Beltane

“…There have been many waves of Beltane festivals, each in its own generation with a different facet, but all saying ‘We Need To Celebrate’”
– Margaret Bennett, 2006

To the pastoral Celtic people’s of Europe the changing pattern of the seasons was a matter of life and death, and marking these changes key moments in the life of the community. Beltane – “bright fire” – was one such marker celebrated in various forms across Ireland, Scotland and Man as the starting point of summer. A celebration of the time of light and growth to come, Beltane was associated with a variety of practices, from the display of fresh greenery to the baking of Beltane bannocks. Perhaps the most important element, however, was the lighting of Beltane fires on the first of May, which would recall the growing power of the sun and provide an opportunity to cleanse and renew the conditions of a community – both humans and their animals – that had spent the dark months indoors. In Scotland, the lighting of Beltane fires – round which cattle were driven, over which brave souls danced and leapt – would survive into modern times, although a process of slow decline saw towns and villages slowly abandon the practice in the nineteenth century. The last Beltane fire recorded in Helmsdale took place in 1820. In the middle years of the century the fires of Fife spluttered out, and by the 1870s they would go unlit in the Shetland Isles. By the start of the twentieth century, Edinburgh, which had for time immemorial seen beacons lit on Arthur’s Seat, ceased such public Beltane celebrations.

In 1988 Edinburgh’s Beltane fires were brought to life once more, led by Angus Farquhar – then of industrial band Test Dept, who took part in the first Beltane performance, now ofNVA. The inspiration here was the idea of recreating a sense of community and an appreciation of the cyclical nature of the seasons and our connection to the environment. With the aid of choreographer Lindsay John and a folklorist Margaret Bennett of Edinburgh University’s School of Scottish Studies, this first performance drew on existing folk traditions surrounding Beltane to create a modern celebration of the festival which has continued to grow and evolve as the years have gone by.

This first modern Beltane saw only five performers take to Calton Hill, watched by an audience of fifty to a hundred people. Within five years this had grown to several hundred performers and three thousand audience members, during which time the Society came into place to support the continuation of the festival. While Arthur’s Seat had traditionally been the location for Edinburgh’s Beltane celebrations, at the time of the planning of the ‘new’ Beltane Festival a location was needed that was more accessible and central, while still maintaining an association with nature and the environment. Calton Hill also at that time had a bad reputation relating to sex and drugs and was a ‘no go’ area of the city, and part of the aim was to ‘reclaim’ that space for the local community through our celebrations.

As the Beltane Fire Festival has grown and developed, change has been inevitable. In 1992, Angus Farquhar organised his last Beltane, and the following year the Beltane Fire Society formed to take on his mantle. By 1999, audience numbers had reached ten thousand, and in 2001 the Festival took on its first paid production manager to co-ordinate the growing event, currently a part-time paid role in an otherwise volunteer organisation. Growing costs, attendance numbers and council licensing requirements meant that in 2004 the decision was made for the previously free event to be ticketed for the first time. An admission charge did little to effect the festival’s popularity, however, and in 2004 the event sold out for the first time with an audience of twelve thousand. In recent years, the audience has varied between six and twelve thousand people, experiencing a cast of around three hundred performers, plus support groups, technicians and production groups.

As “Beltane” has got bigger, it also expanded outwith the night itself, part of a cultural mileau which helped to spawn several performance groups which would move beyond the bounds of Beltane. Most notable was te POOKa, a performing arts charity which for many years had a symbiotic relationship with the festival, sharing personnel, headquarters and, in its early years, the name “Beltane Productions”. The charitable objectives of the Society, which in part seeks to raise awareness of the Quarter Days of the Scottish seasonal calendar, have also expanded its own performances to mark these complementary festivals. While the festivals of Imbolc and Lugnasadh have generally been small, informal affairs for members of the Society, the most established alternate celebration is Samhuinn – 31st October – when the coming of winter is marked by a public procession in Edinburgh city centre.

Despite these changes, BFS remains a volunteer-run community charity, with the performance on the night itself at its core. And, while the performance itself has grown and changed, it has firmly retained key elements – the procession of the May Queen, the death and rebirth of Green Man, the lighting of the bonfire – which provide a backbone of continuity while allowing a huge amount of flexibility within each group and each character as to how they wish to engage with and shape the story of our Festival. The Beltane fires have returned to Edinburgh in a vibrant, modern tradition which has become a world-renowned spectacle.

From:

Beltane Fire Society

Formed in 1988, Beltane Fire Society is a community arts performance charity that hosts the Beltane Fire Festival and Samhuinn Fire Festival in Edinburgh.

Beltane

Introduction

Beltane

Find this year’s date in the multifaith calendar

Ritual burning of a straw manBeltane is a Celtic word which means ‘fires of Bel’ (Bel was a Celtic deity). It is a fire festival that celebrates of the coming of summer and the fertility of the coming year.

Celtic festivals often tied in with the needs of the community. In spring time, at the beginning of the farming calendar, everybody would be hoping for a fruitful year for their families and fields.

Beltane rituals would often include courting: for example, young men and women collecting blossoms in the woods and lighting fires in the evening. These rituals would often lead to matches and marriages, either immediately in the coming summer or autumn.

Other festivities involved fire which was thought to cleanse, purify and increase fertility. Cattle were often passed between two fires and the properties of the flame and the smoke were seen to ensure the fertility of the herd.

Today Pagans believe that at Beltane the God (to whom the Goddess gave birth at the Winter Solstice) achieves the strength and maturity to court and become lover to the Goddess. So although what happens in the fields has lost its significance for most Pagans today, the creation of fertility is still an important issue.

Emma Restall Orr, a modern day Druid, speaks of the ‘fertility of our personal creativity’. (Spirits of the Sacred Grove, pub. Thorsons, 1998, pg.110). She is referring to the need for active and creative lives. We need fertile minds for our work, our families and our interests.

Fire is still the most important element of most Beltane celebrations and there are many traditions associated with it. It is seen to have purifying qualities which cleanse and revitalise. People leap over the Beltane fire to bring good fortune, fertility (of mind, body and spirit) and happiness through the coming year.

Although Beltane is the most overtly sexual festival, Pagans rarely use sex in their rituals although rituals often imply sex and fertility. The tradition of dancing round the maypole contains sexual imagary and is still very popular with modern Pagans.

The largest Beltane celebrations in the UK are held in Edinburgh. Fires are lit at night and festivities carry on until dawn. All around the UK fires are lit and private celebrations are held amongst covens and groves (groups of Pagans) to mark the start of the summer.

Top

Edinburgh traditions

Beltane in Edinburgh

Performer in white costume and bright white makeup with a blue-painted Blue Man in the foregroundWhite Woman performer ©Every year on 30th April on Calton Hill in Edinburgh thousands of people come together for a huge celebration to mark the coming of summer. The evening begins with a procession to the top of the hill led by people dressed as the May Queen and the Green Man (ancient God and Goddess figures representing fertility and growth).

The May Queen crowns the Green Man, in a ritual similar to that carried out by Wiccan Pagans (who follow a structured set of rituals). The winter ends when the Green Man’s winter costume is taken from him and he is revealed in his spring costume. A wild dance takes place and the Green Man and the May Queen are married.

The main element of any Beltane celebration is fire. On Calton Hill torchbearers carry purifying flames and fire arches are used to represent the gateways between the earthly world and the spirit world.

Most of the imagery used in the costumes and rituals comes from the Celts and from Scottish folklore. Other influences come from indeginous people world wide. For instance, the symbol of Ogun, the Yoruba god of iron, can be seen on the faces of some of the performers, and the Geisha traditions of Japan are evident in the dress of the White Women (assistants of the May Queen). Due to the ecclectic nature of the celebrations, Edinburgh’s Beltane is not recognised as a religious ritual by many practising Pagans.

Fire archFire arch ©

  • The blue paint of the Blue Men refers to the woad used by Celtic warriors.
  • The May Queen’s male consort is the Green Man, sometimes called the May King, Jack-in-the-Green, Robin Hood or the woodland faery Puck.
  • The Red Men represent mischief makers, Pan-like figures who live for the moment without a care in the world or inhibitions.
  • The White Woman and her handmaidens protect the May Queen and attend to her later in the evening. They are the order and discipline in the face of the Red Men’s chaos.
  • Torch Bearers are an important, trusted group. Dressed from head to foot in black, with blacked out faces, their hair covered, they are protected from fire and other elements.

From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/paganism/holydays/beltane_1.shtml

Beltane Lore & Rites

by Selena Fox

DSC 2730-smallAlso known as May Eve, May Day, and Walpurgis Night, happens at the beginning of May. It celebrates the height of Spring and the flowering of life. The Goddess manifests as the May Queen and Flora. The God emerges as the May King and Jack in the Green. The danced Maypole represents Their unity, with the pole itself being the God and the ribbons that encompass it, the Goddess. Colors are the Rainbow spectrum. Beltane is a festival of flowers, fertility, sensuality, and delight.

Celebrating Beltane Podcasts

 

Beltane Chants

 

Beltane Customs

Prepare a May basket by filling it with flowers and goodwill and then give it to someone in need of healing and caring, such as a shut-in or elderly friend. Form a wreath of freshly picked flowers, wear it in your hair, and feel yourself radiating joy and beauty. Dress in bright colors. Dance the Maypole and feel yourself balancing the Divine Female and Male within. On May Eve, bless your garden in the old way by making love with your lover in it. Make a wish as you jump a bonfire or candle flame for good luck. Welcome in the May at dawn with singing and dancing.

Going A-Maying & Bringing in the May — Merry-making and Nature communion. * Midpoint between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. * In Pagan Rome, Floralia, from April 27-May 3 was the festival of the Flower Goddess Flora and the flowering of Springtime. On May 1, offerings were made to Bona Dea (as Mother Earth), the Lares (household guardian spirits), and Maia (Goddess of Increase) from whom May gets its name. * Roman Catholic traditions of crowning statues of Mary with flowers on May 1 have Roman Pagan roots. * Marks the second half of the Celtic Year; one of the four Celtic Fire Festivals. Complement to Samhain, it is a time of divination and communion with Fairy Folk/Nature Spirits. * Pastoral tradition of turning sheep, cows, other livestock out to pasture. * In Pagan Scandinavia, mock battles between Winter and Summer were enacted at this time. * Building on older tradition of this time being a holiday for the masses, in the twentieth century, May Day has been a workers’ holiday in many places. * Some say that Mother’s Day, in the USA, Mexico, and elsewhere has Pagan roots.

 

DSC 2542-smallMaypole

Forms include pole, tree, bush, cross; communal or household; permanent or annual. * In Germany, Fir tree was cut on May Eve by young unmarried men, branches removed, decorated, put up in village square, & guarded all night until dance occurred on May Day. * In England, permanent Maypoles were erected on village greens * In some villages, there also were smaller Maypoles in the yards of households. * Maypole ribbondances, with two circles interweaving; around decorated bush/tree, clockwise circle dances.

 

Flowers & Greenwood

Gathering and exchange of Flowers and Greens on May Eve, pre-dawn May Day, Beltane. * Decorating homes, barns, and other buildings with Green budding branches, including Hawthorn. * Making and wearing of garland wreaths of Flowers and/or Greens. * May Baskets were given or placed secretly on doorsteps to friends, shut-ins, lovers, others. * May Bowl was punch (wine or non-alcoholic) made of Sweet Woodruff blossoms.

 

DSC 2841-smallBeltane Fires

Traditionally, sacred woods kindled by spark from flint or by friction — in Irish Gaelic, the Beltane Fire has been called teine eigin (fire from rubbing sticks). * Jump over the Beltane Fire, move through it, or dance clockwise around it. * Livestock was driven through it or between two fires for purification and fertility blessings. * In ancient times Druid priests kindled it at sacred places; later times, Christian priests kindled it in fields near the church after peforming a Christian church service. * Rowan twigs were carried around the fire three times, then hung over hearths to bless homes. * In the past, Beltane community fire purification customs included symbolic sacrifice of effigy knobs on the Beltane Cake (of barley) to the fire, or, in medieval times, mock sacrifice of Beltane Carline (Hag) who received blackened piece of Beltane Cake; Maypoles in Spain were each topped with a male effigy which was later burned. Contemporary Pagans burn sacred wood and dried herbs as offerings in their Beltane fires.

 

May Waters

Rolling in May Eve dew or washing face in pre-dawn May Day dew for health, luck, beauty. * Getting head and hair wet in Beltane rain to bless the head. * Blessing springs, ponds, other sacred waters with flowers, garlands, ribbons, other offerings. * Collecting sacred waters and scrying in sacred springs, wells, ponds, other waters.

 

Sacred Union & Fertility

Union with the Land focus, often with actual mating outside on the Land to bless fields, herds, home. * May Queen (May Bride) as personification of the Earth Goddess and Goddesses of Fertility. * May King (May Groom) as personification of Vegetation God, Jack-in-Green — often covered in green leaves. * At Circle Sanctuary, in addition to May Queen & May King, is May Spirit Couple, an already bonded pair. * Symbolic Union of Goddess and God in election/selection, crowning, processional, Maypole dance, feast. * Morris Dancers and pageants (with Hag & Jack-in-Green) to awaken the fertility in the Land.